10 Biggest Conspiracy Theories in NBA History

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2011

10 Biggest Conspiracy Theories in NBA History

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    In the NBA, one of the things that has been a big part of the league has been conspiracy theories—especially, and almost solely, during the long reign of David Stern.

    Stern came into the league back in 1984 and immediately dealt with a conspiracy theory surrounding the 1985 draft (more on that later), which wouldn't be the first time he had to hear conspiracy theories stirring around the media.

    Conspiracy theories are just another small thing that makes the league as interesting as it is and gives us another thing to talk about. It makes the league seem like a living, breathing entity.

    So, for the sake of some fun and a look around at the past 25 years or so, here I have the biggest conspiracy theories over the course of the league's history.

10. Wilt Chamberlain...Gay? No Way, Right?

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    One of the more recent conspiracy theories that have been started is one that I have found slightly interesting, but I don't think this one holds much weight.

    This is a rumor that has been really propagated by ESPN's Bill Simmons who first whipped out this doozie back in 2008 on The Colbert Report and then harped on a bit more in his Book of Basketball.

    We all know the rumor that Chamberlain started himself that he slept with over 10,000 women, which seems far too high a number for any normal person to just pull out of a hat, so I don't think it's impossible that thee big guy was gay, but I doubt it.

9. The Women in LeBron's Life

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    For the past two year, a rumor has got out that the women in LeBron's life have affected his play late in the playoffs.

    First, back in 2010, the big rumor that everybody took and ran with was that Delonte West slept with LeBron James' mom, Gloria. It's a rumor that really has very little backing or reason for coming about, but there is a bit of circumstantial evidence there, as Delonte's playing time drastically decreased in the series against the Celtics when he was one of their four best players.

    This past season, another rumor came out surrounding one of LeBron's ladies, this time his girlfriend, was having relations with Rashard Lewis. This rumor gained steam when Stephen A. Smith talked about LeBron having personal problems.

    Now, I don't like using these backhand rumors as basis for any truth, and backing it up with Stephen A. Smith isn't exactly throwing all journalistic integrity behind these rumors, but it is interesting that these rumors have crept up two years in a row now.

8. The Seattle Caper

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    To me, this is one of the most obviously true conspiracy theories floating around out in the NBA.

    The thought here is that when Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett purchased the Seattle Supersonics, he had no intention of keeping them in Seattle and planned on moving them to Oklahoma City as soon as possible.

    Bennett kept the team in Seattle for just two seasons before wriggling his way out of the lease with the city (with the help of David Stern) and snuck out of Seattle like an elephant walking through Time Square.

7. The Big Three Had It Planned

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    The Miami Heat came together a season ago after picking up Chris Bosh and LeBron James, at which point the basketball world stopped and decided they all had a team to collectively hate.

    However, the thought here was that the Heat had this planned for years, and many people have asserted that they planned on playing together ever since 2006.

    The theory had some merit in the idea that the three had been friends since 2004, when they first played in the Olympics together, and then they all took extensions of the exact same length in 2006.

    It got so big that Cleveland Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert decided to take a look into tampering charges against the Miami Heat and LeBron James, but nothing really came of that.

6. The 2010 and 2011 Draft Lottery

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    While there are some really farfetched rumors out there, this one seems like something that David Stern would legitimately do to me.

    This conspiracy theory here was started by none other than David Kahn himself after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the draft lottery this year.

    Dan Gilbert's 14-year-old son, who has neurofibromatosis, was up on the podium for the Cavs.

    After the Cavs won the lottery, Kahn said, "This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines," alleging that Stern possibly fixed the lottery so that the best story came out of the lottery. Something similar happened in 2010 when Abe Pollin's widow (Pollin was the recently deceased former owner of the Wizards) was on the podium for Washington.

    Like any good conspiracy theory, this one is dripping with circumstantial evidence, but is never going to have anything come to light so long as David Stern is in control.

5. Big City Favorites

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    Throughout the 90s, when there wasn't basketball games on some cable network on what seems like five nights a week, the only time basketball games were on national television was when NBC aired them.

    The only problem, however, was that NBC was constantly scheduling Los Angeles, Chicago and New York for games and largely ignoring the rest of the league, including Houston who had Hakeem Olajuwan at the time and were in the fourth biggest television market.

4. Michael Jordan's Gambling Debts

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    This is probably one of the most well-known conspiracy theories out there, probably because it's surrounding the league's best player of all-time.

    The thought here is that Michael Jordan's gambling problems had gotten out of hand and an investigation had been launched after their third championship. David Stern then told him to go away until the gambling stories died down, so he went to play baseball.

    It doesn't help that Jordan more or less admitted that he had a gambling problem to Ed Bradley in an interview in 2005. 

3. Chris Paul Gets Vetoed

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    This has been a tough one to sort out, and there are a few conspiracies to be had here, so lets take a quick look at everything going on.

    First, there's the idea that the NBA owners had something to do with David Stern vetoing this trade, mostly propagated by the letter that was leaked from Dan Gilbert to David Stern. This one would surprise me, because it would be David Stern giving up power, which is something that hasn't happened in his entire tenure.

    Then there's the thought that Stern was clinging to Paul for the Hornets so he could sell the team for more money. This makes sense, as it would give the new owner control over where his team goes.

    Now the thought is that David Stern was so upset after hearing about the trade that he vetoed it immediately because the Lakers were doing what Stern didn't want to happen post-lockout. He basically took over the team and made happen what he wanted to happen, driving up the price so high that only certain teams would be able to make a trade for Paul.

2. The Folded Envelope

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    Leave it to the NBA to completely screw up it's first draft lottery ever. Well, maybe they didn't screw it up, but they made it look shady enough for it to be stained for the rest of eternity.

    The Knicks had been in a bit of a louse in the league for a few years and the league would benefit from a good New York team, so the NBA determined they needed to get Patrick Ewing to New York.

    In the lottery, the theory is that the envelope containing New York's name was bashed against the side of the tumbler so that Stern could feel around and find it.

    Giving even more steam to this lottery theory, the NBA has taken the youtube clip down, claiming copyright on the clip, something they almost never do these days.

1. Company Men on the Floor

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    This may not have a whole lot of conspiracy behind them anymore, but it has had the biggest impact on the NBA ever since.

    After Tim Donaghy got arrested and eventually sent to jail, he alleged what everybody had been saying for years. The NBA had referees rigging games for the sake of ratings.

    Donaghy alleged that the league had "company men" on the floor who would call fouls in order to either get series to go on longer or to give an edge to the bigger market team.

    The biggest example of a curious game? The 2002 Western Conference Finals, game six when Sacramento just couldn't get a call to go their way and the Lakers forced a game seven.

    One of the referees for that game? Tim Donaghy.

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